I love experiencing the fullness of life when I'm surrounded by nature. One of my favorite things is observing plants and appreciating each of them in their uniqueness! When plants are healthy, they look robust, strong, and bright. Their flowers bloom with life and so do their leaves. Curly hair is like plants in this sense. Hydrated and healthy curly hair will always look full, defined, bright, strong and full of life, resembling a beautiful garden that is growing out of your scalp. Limp, stringy and weak curls are indicators that something isn't quite right. If you are experiencing limp curls, you need to reassess your curly hair routine to pinpoint what the problem might be. Listening to the wants and needs of your hair is the key!
It goes without saying that if you are occasionally using tools that produce high heat (blow-drying, flat-ironing or curling wand) on your hair and noticing limp curls that refuse to form, the only solution to this problem will be to have a haircut to cut off the heat damaged areas of your hair and let go of your heating tools habit. Heat damage is entirely irreversible and it is not possible to restore hair that has been melted.
Here I am going to share seven problems and their solutions for limp curls that are free from heat damage.
Problem 1: Thinning/Debulking/Razoring/Texturizing/Slicing/Carving Haircuts
These kinds of haircuts tend to cause irregular curl patterns. They create expansion at the root area and limp, frizzy ends, resembling the appearance of heat damage. In fact, sliding shears onto the hair shaft, breaks off hair cuticles, leaving the hair exposed to further damage.
A grown-out texturizing haircut, only 3 months after the cut. The curls look limp, shapeless and irregular.
Solution 1: A Dry Curl by Curl Haircut
Lorraine Massey created this wonderful technique for cutting curly hair. She says: "It’s about cutting your curls individually and when they are dry, in their natural state. We can have multiple textures of curls in one head. We are not 'one size fits all.' When you’re having a dress or suit fitted, it’s not fitted on wet fabric because it will shrink and seem ill-fitted when dry. The same applies to hair. Hair is a fabric, so you are tailoring a shape that is coutured for you."
A curl-by-curl dry haircut enables the hair to be itself. It also imparts a lot of volume for curly hair because each curl is uninterrupted and looks wholesome after styling.
There is no irregularity in the individual curl pattern. It also lasts a very long time. You can go for up to six months between haircuts with voluminous curls.
Curl specialists Lucas and Nikki from Project One Hair Salon in Sydney, Australia, say, "Custom, dry, curl by curl cutting allows for varying curl patterns and lengths to be matched up to create continuity in all forms of curly hair, and especially in finer or limper textures to ensure maximum body and volume."
A grown-out curl-by-curl dry haircut, six months after the cut. The curls look voluminous, complete and full of bounce.
Problem 2: Heavy products
Products that are buttery, oily and full of silicones will greatly affect the curl’s ability to form. Curls need water and nourishment to thrive, not heavy or greasy products. Greasy or silicone-filled products set on top of the hair and weigh it down.
Solution 2: Lightweight Products
Water and weightless silicone-free products are the perfect romance for curly hair. Weightless products are great conductors of water. If you are using heavy products and experiencing limp curls, re-assessing your choice of products is a good idea.
Heavy products can cause limpness.
Problem 3: Lack of Protein in Hair Products
Very often I hear curly haired women saying that they are experiencing limpness with their curls. Sometimes, when I give suggestions about products to use, they tell me that they can’t use a certain product, because they are “protein sensitive.” I don’t believe that protein sensitivity is truly a thing, because our hair fibres are made of Keratin. Keratin is a protein. Further to this, I have not found any studies on haircare that diagnose protein sensitivity in hair.
In my conversations with several curly hair stylists, all have agreed that protein sensitivity isn’t a real diagnosis when it comes to hair. At the same time, protein isn’t the miracle-solver of all curly hair problems.
The truth is that when your hair is well hydrated with enough amounts of water and conditioner, protein usage isn’t a problem. Stiffness or hair that feels like “straw” often indicates that the hair is dehydrated rather than “sensitive to protein”.
Solution 3: Let Go of the Fear of Protein
Hydrolyzed proteins contained in hair products are great for curly hair. They help the hair stay hydrated for longer periods of time and they strengthen the hair fibres, which means the curl will hold its shape for longer. You can use these products without fear. They naturally add volume and definition to curly hair.
According to Wendy M.S., the scientist who runs the Hair Science-y Blog, "Hydrolyzed proteins are not whole, intact proteins like those in foods. They have been broken into smaller pieces (smaller molecules) through treatment with acids or fermentation."
Large proteins like those in foods are not very beneficial to hair, but hydrolyzed proteins can do a variety of things like form a clear, flexible film over your hair that slows water loss. Some proteins penetrate below the outermost cuticles to keep hair hydrated at slightly deeper layers. Protein in products can also add a little extra support to hair. Protein is used for strength, for shine, for hydration and to reduce breakage. Protein helps temporarily repair damaged areas in hair by filling in gaps in the cuticle. Protein keeps hair hydrated by slowing the loss of water from hair."
Problem 4: Your Hair is Easily Weighed Down by Layered Products
Some types of hair don’t work well with several layers of product, especially very fine hair types. They become easily weighed or dragged down. If this is your problem, there is a solution for you.
Solution 4: Use Conditioner as your Styling Product
In a previous article Evan Joseph addressed his secret for volume. He said, "Just leave conditioner in as your styling product. When a conditioner isn't too heavy and melts easily into the hair, it adds incredible volume. You can also layer a foam or mousse if you need a little more control."
Bouncy, voluminous curls, styled with a weightless conditioner.
Problem 5: Your Roots Lack Volume
There are many reasons for this.
Sometimes curly hair looks limp because the curls weigh down the roots, especially when there is a lot of density. This also tends to happen while the hair is drying on wash days.
In other cases, roots lose their volume after sleeping, especially in those who wear a buff or a silk cap to protect their curls overnight.
Solution 5: Root Clipping While Drying, Side-Parting & Fluffing the Roots on Dry Hair
Root clipping will hold and aerate your roots while you are drying your hair, creating lift and volume. The video below has many visual examples of clipping:
Fluffing your roots when your hair is dry or the next day after sleeping also works wonders. I always use my scalp massager for this. You can also use a pick comb to lift your roots.
Side-parting is great for volume as well. It adds incredible lift to your roots.
My favorite hack is spraying some alcohol and silicone-free hairspray on the ends of my scalp massager before lifting my roots and side-parting. I tilt my hair to the side, allowing my side part to fall naturally. Then, I use the scalp massager with some hairspray to set the volume and help the hair stay in place. My favorite hairspray for this hack is the Honeybee Gardens Alcohol Free Hairspray. It has incredible hold.
Fluffing the roots and side-parting add a lot of volume.
Problem 6: Hard Water Buildup
Hard water can be a real problem for some curly girls, me included. Hard water build-up presents itself in the form of limp curls as well.
Curl specialist Saulo O’Dearin, who is the founder of The Curly Look Salon in Dublin, Ireland, says: "Water quality is important. It's important to watch how your curls and waves are responding to the water. For example, some areas here in Dublin have hard water and this affects the performance of your cleansers and products overtime. If hard water is a problem, I recommend a second cleanser with non-drying surfactants to lift residues and remove hard water build-up."
Solution 6: A Chelating Treatment
Chelating treatments are effective because they lift minerals from your hair, allowing them to be rinsed out by water. The majority of chelating treatments usually contain harsh detergents that are too drying for curly hair.
If hard water is a problem for you, I recommend a once monthly chelating treatment with Malibu C Hard Water Demineralizer. This is a very unique and effective product for curly hair, because it does not contain any Sulphates (detergents) or harsh ingredients. It comes in the form of a powder contained in sachets. When you mix the powder with water, you feel a creamy texture in your hand. A once monthly treatment with this product is more than enough to keep hard water problems at bay.
Problem 7: Your Hair Becomes Weighed Down by Air Drying
Hair that is extremely fine tends to be elongated or pulled down by the weight of water and products while air drying. Water and weightless products are important for curls, but sometimes they weigh certain types of curls down. If this is a problem for you, you can solve it by diffusing your hair.
Solution 7: Diffuse Your Curls
Using a diffuser with a hairdryer on the lowest heat setting is extremely safe for curly hair. If your hair is weighed down by air drying, you can resort to diffusing without any guilt in your curly mind! In fact, this same tip is included in the Curly Girl Handbook, by Lorraine Massey.
My favorite diffuser is the Xtava Black Orchid Diffuser. It is extremely gentle! It also has drying vents at the ends, so you get simultaneous air flow at both the root and the ends. This is amazing for volume and drying speed.
The Xtava Black Orchid diffuser.
If you have natural curly hair that is free from heat damage and you are experiencing problems with limp curls, consider these seven solutions:
- A dry curl-by-curl haircut or trim
- Use lightweight products and avoid heavy ones
- Use products with hydrolyzed proteins
- Use conditioner as your styling product
- Use root clips while drying, side-part & fluff your roots once your hair is dry
- Do a chelating treatment for hard water
- Diffuse, rather than air dry
Are you experiencing limp curls in your journey? Was this article helpful to you? Let me know in the comments below!